The South Carroll Senior Center celebrated Father's Day early with a daffy salute to that most typical of dad gifts - the tie.
A chorus line of tie-clad contestants paraded along the stage and waved their cravats to a cheering audience of about 200 gathered at the Eldersburg center for the festivities Thursday. They competed for prizes in myriad categories, leaving the decision on brightest, longest, zaniest and prettiest to the crowd's discretion.
Center manager and emcee Karen Larrimore, dressed in a pink-print tie, polled the audience before awarding the winners. Although several candidates seemed to fit into the Ugliest category, she quickly scrapped that designation after it received no votes.
Virginia "Sis" Day, 76, bought a stars-and-stripes number for the occasion. It played the national anthem whenever she pressed a star and garnered the Most Patriotic prize - pink note cards. Day also lent several vintage ties from her closet to other contestants, who were puzzled that none of the borrowed items was prizeworthy.
"I had a beautiful red one on, tied just perfectly, but I guess the audience didn't like it," said Ruth Lindsay, 86, of Day's loaner. "I liked the contest, though."
Tony Matulonis, 66, wore a bright-blue "I Love Grandpa" tie, replete with red hearts and stick figures. He had just removed the price tag from last year's Father's Day gift from his grandchildren.
"I think I won Prettiest," he said.
Vernon Nash, 90, took the Most Colorful category with a muted pastel print. Russell Wilson, 82, sported the oldest tie, a wedding anniversary gift from about a dozen years ago. Mary Horman, 88, pinned a wide red, white and blue bow to her blouse.
"It is my American Legion tie," she said. "I have been a member there for 45 years."
Irene and Earl DeMercada fashioned the zaniest ties.
"They are homemade out of my scraps bag," said Irene DeMercada, 77, who decorated a blue bow tie with plastic eyes.
Her 81-year-old husband's longer version in the same material gave him room to add a nose and mouth below the roving eyes.
George Vasbinder, 84, the most dapper in the parade, chose soft gray silk, a perfect complement to his vest and slacks. He admitted to a closetful of ties but was unsure how many were Father's Day presents.
"I have lots of ties, and this one is pretty old," Vasbinder said. "I picked it to go with my costume for the play."
The tie contest segued into Do You Remember When, a spoof of vintage television shows. His tastefully coordinated outfit helped Vasbinder get into his George Burns role.
Bud Burkhart, 74, rarely wears a tie, "except for church," he said. He draped one over his stark white T-shirt for the contest and took home the Most Unusual ribbon. Frogs mouthing the syllables Bud-weis-er, in an imitation of the once-popular beer commercial, decorated the glaring green silk.
"My daughter bought it from a street vendor in D.C.," Burkhart said. "It works for a guy named Bud."